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Working with Arts Centres

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At Jazz Connector on 13th August 2020, members of Ireland’s jazz and improvised music scene connected with arts centre representatives to discuss:

Irish Arts Centres: Future plans and best booking practices

Our Guest Speakers were Belinda Quirke, Artistic Director of Solstice Arts Centre Navan, and Elizabeth Whyte, CEO of Wexford Arts Centre.

Guest Speakers were expressing their own personal opinions, and not speaking on behalf of their organisations or employers.

Some of the points of connection which emerged over the course of this Jazz Connector discussion were:

There are different types of opportunities with Arts Centres

  • Arts Centres are often very open to allowing artists to develop work in their spaces. They may not have formal application systems for this, but can be checked by getting in contact. Some also have more formal development strands with an application process.
    • An initial contact email or an application should give a good sense of why you in particular are interested in developing work in this centre, why this particular space or this particular region.
    • Development opportunities like this which are possible without costing an arts centre a huge amount of money can also be a good way to build relationships.
    • It also addresses the bigger issue of lack of developmental spaces.
  • Arts Centres often have different types of opportunities for artists including residencies etc. which are also worth investigating.

Arts Centres planning and funding structures

  • Arts Centres are quite often in a position of having approx 35% of their budget coming from funders such as the Arts Council or other local authorities while 65% has to be made commercially. This may be 75% commercial, 25% funded or other variants.
    • Some arts centres have reliable jazz audiences, others do not, which makes programming difficult without contexts and other supports to develop this audiences. Particularly so, if the costs exceed the revenues considerably and repeatedly.
    • Not all projects have to make a profit - It becomes more important then, to make sure a project is allocated from funding. Arts Centres exist to share the arts with audiences, connect artists and audiences.
  • In general, if any project is cleared with the Arts Centre before their annual funding deadline and is therefore part of the Arts Centres annual plans, it will have a higher priority, as there will be specific funding allocated for it in the budget application, as opposed to it coming out of a general remaining pot which is more precarious.
    • Many arts centres have funding deadlines via arts centre/strategic funding with the Arts Council in September for the following year. Therefore for artists, it would be best to discuss projects by August, at the latest, for the following year - i.e. August 2020 for projects Jan-Dec 2021.
    • Ideally, it would be better for the Arts Centres if the Touring Award had a deadline before the Arts Centre/Strategic funding deadlines so that artists can lock tours in before funding applications have gone in for arts centres.
  • Best practice to have a conversation with the arts centre about a project at least 9 months in advance of a proposed date (this may be longer for events at the end of the calendar year, as above)
  • An Arts Centre funded by the Arts Council should always have as their bottom line that the artists get paid. Arts Council funded organisations would be penalised for not paying artists appropriately. Arts Council’s list of arts centres/venues here:
  • Other funding/opportunities to work with
  • Improvised Music Company’s calendar of funding opportunities includes all upcoming deadlines that we are aware of (particularly from major funders such as Culture Ireland and the Arts Council). It can be added to your own google calendar and can alert you two weeks in advance of an upcoming deadline.

Arts Centres & COVID-19

  • Some Arts Centres are currently planning for continuing to the end of 2020 in a limited way, perhaps with some small-capacity or online events.
  • For next year, arts centres may be planning for a number of different scenarios based on potential restrictions.
  • With a reduction in income, the number of events they can do without profit, or a risk of small profit may be limited - this is even more important to tie-in to funded strands of work.
  • Arts Centres are facing increased costs for cleaning, equipment.
    • Significantly lowered income with fewer events and very low capacities.
    • They will face further difficulty when the COVID-19 employee payment ends by March 2021
  • Some are currently investigating the prospect of streaming
    • This means significant capital expenditure in new equipment, or increased concert costs.
    • Some are investigating specific funding for such equipment, with the possibility of sharing this resource with other spaces etc.
    • If artists can bring their own recording capabilities/equipment, this could be a positive thing for an arts centre.
  • If the arts centres are closed again, there may still be a possibility to use the spaces for development, if it can be done safely.
    • Some arts centres were doing this while closed under recent restrictions.
    • This could then be a great opportunity to compose or rehearse work in the space for future performances
  • IMC are consulting with European jazz venues on ideas around digital touring, a new model to stream abroad, e.g. a concert which includes a live band from the country and a streamed band from another country. Digital touring could be an important precursor to actual touring, testing new markets, building a following etc.
  • International artists may be approaching Irish arts centres with proposals for streamed concerts, Irish artists could do the same to venues abroad.

Find the minutes of other Jazz Connector meetings HERE.

If you have an idea for a topic that you'd like to suggest for Jazz Connector, please let us know by email.

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